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Mystery of Missing Martian Methane Deepens 53

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the send-burritos dept.
astroengine writes "NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has been scouring the thin Martian atmosphere for methane — a potential tracer for the presence of Martian life. However, since the gas also can be produced geologically, any findings promised a meaty debate. That discussion can be shelved, perhaps permanently, new findings from a team of Curiosity scientists shows. The most extensive search yet for methane in Mars' atmosphere has come up empty. 'It's disappointing, of course. We would have liked to get [to Gale Crater] and found lots of methane and measure all the isotopes,' lead researcher Christopher Webster, with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News."
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Mystery of Missing Martian Methane Deepens

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  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:33PM (#44896845)

    Mystery of Missing Martian Methane Magnifies?

  • What mystery? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:42PM (#44896923) Journal
    In order for the mystery to deepen, we would first need to have a mystery, even a shallow(?) one. But what do we have here? A complete lack of a mystery.

    Yes, life can produce methane. Yes, some geological processes can produce methane. Mars has neither... So?

    I have a complete lack of Siberian tigers in my basement. That doesn't count as a mystery, deep or otherwise.
    • by geek (5680)

      Indeed. I also take issue with the use of "missing." There was never any indication that it was there in the first place for it to be "missing."

      • Re:What mystery? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Patch86 (1465427) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @05:33PM (#44897295)

        There has been plenty of indication that there was methane on Mars, which was an exciting prospect. Quoth the wiki:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars#Atmosphere [wikipedia.org]

        In short, orbiters such as the Mars Express detected methane. Methane only has an atmospheric life of a few years, which means if the orbiter detected it then something must be releasing it right now. The amount detected was more than could have been expected from non-living sources, which makes it an indication of life.

        If we now can't detect it, that means either all our previous detections were wrong, or the methane has disappeared. Or, of course, that the rover isn't detecting it even though it is still there somewhere. All of which raises more questions than answers. Hence "mystery".

      • Indeed. I also take issue with the use of "missing." There was never any indication that it was there in the first place for it to be "missing."

        Indeed. It's like expressing puzzlement over missing vaginas wrapping slashdotter wiener. Who the hell presumes its existence beyond fantasied hopes of life?

    • Re:What mystery? (Score:5, Informative)

      by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:49PM (#44896985)

      Yes, life can produce methane. Yes, some geological processes can produce methane. Mars has neither... So?

      Well, that's the thing. Mars does have methane, we've detected it before. So the mystery is, what happened to the previously detected methane plumes? Why did they disappear?

      So now not only do we not know what produced the methane in mars, we additionally don't know why it's no longer doing so. Mystery deepened.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Well, that's the thing. Mars does have methane, we've detected it before. So the mystery is, what happened to the previously detected methane plumes? Why did they disappear?

        Meanwhile, hundreds of miles below the Martian surface:
        "Zorgnab, Kronznantz here - the Earthling's primitive landing craft has equipment for detecting methane on-board. If they detect methane, they may suspect that life evolved here. We can't give them a clue to our possible existence - activate the atmospheric scrubbers at once."

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        Yes, life can produce methane. Yes, some geological processes can produce methane. Mars has neither... So?

        Well, that's the thing. Mars does have methane, we've detected it before. So the mystery is, what happened to the previously detected methane plumes? Why did they disappear?

        So now not only do we not know what produced the methane in mars, we additionally don't know why it's no longer doing so. Mystery deepened.

        Martians discovered Beano?

      • AFAIK methane is quite light - lighter than air. Mars atmosphere is composed almost entirely of CO2, which is heavier than air, so, wouldn't methane just rise to the top where it would be detected by orbiters but not be produces at such a rate to be in detectable concentration near the surface?

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        Mars does have methane, we've detected it before. So the mystery is, what happened to the previously detected methane plumes? Why did they disappear?

        Martians fart in reverse.

        After all, they have orange skies and blue sunsets, the opposite of ours.

    • Re:What mystery? (Score:5, Informative)

      by edjs (1043612) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:53PM (#44897021)

      Some plumes of methane were detected by Mars orbiters and terrestrial telescopes 10 years ago, thus the expectation of the rover detecting the methane.

      http://www.space.com/6319-mars-methane-geology-biology.html [space.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:55PM (#44897051)

      But dude, I put my collection of Siberian tigers in your basement last night. Their cages were damaged and I had to put them somewhere while they are fixed. The fact that they are no longer down there is going to change from a mystery to a tragedy really quick.

    • Lets say you did in fact have a few Siberian tigers in your basement, how did they get there? You've got no idea! Then one day you came home and they were gone. The mystery deepens.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      Of course it's not a mystery. Bengal tigers will eat their Siberian cousins if not properly fed.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Imagine you detected tiger in your basement.
      Then when you went down stairs to look you couldn't find it.
      What happened, and more importantly Would you want to know where the tiger is?

    • It's only a mystery to those who assumed it should be there. After all, we all know life started on mars, hitched a ride on an asteroid, only to land on earth.

      So much for Occam's razor.

  • Homer's favorite byproduct.
  • There were no martian cows!
  • Have they tried checking behind the cushions of the sofa? If anything goes missing that's where it usually ends up.

  • by kartaron (763480) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:24PM (#44898035)
    It begins with Christopher Webster stating in no uncertain terms, this is the way things are and there isnt any methane to be found. His statements clearly hint toward doubt of the earlier measurements ..."the plumes were already hard to explain" Only to be contradicted later by Michael Mummy saying "I found them and they were really there... it must be a currently unknown 'process' that destroys methane at something near 100 times the currently accepted natural rate." (summary) Hilariously, the author combines the competing opinions without directly acknowledging the disagreement. Bad science doesnt go away, It circles around itself and refuses to admit flaws.
  • If they sent Curiosity to Uranus

  • The message received from the anonymous source was first decyphered by MartianBrainBasedDecoder, than translated to (one of) standart earhians languages. We believe it was originally mentally transmitted 2 to 1 years ago. (MartianLeakes comment).

    FROM: Central Defensive Strategy Post of Mars
    TO: ALL ALL ALL
    TOPIC: Counter Earth-spying mimicry and methane gas
    TEXT: From last dissasemblies of captured earthians spying devices (codenames Phobos 1, 2, Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander) we believe that ear

  • by yusing (216625)

    Sun's ultraviolet creates H2O2 from CO2; H2O2 'scrubs' methane. Next question??

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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